10 Questions Before You Hire a Licensed Private Investigator - Part 1

Here is the thing about Private Investigators - we are not all created equal. There are all kinds of people that get into the business of private investigation. When you find yourself in a situation in which you require investigative services, it's important to hire a licensed private investigator who is ethical, reputable, and has a long and successful track record. So how, exactly, do you go about that? Easy - you interview them.

Just like any employer who is on the lookout for a quality employee, it's important to ask the right interview questions so you know you are investing your time, energy, and money in hiring the right person for the job. Asking the right questions serves two purposes: it helps you to suss out the good from the bad, based on their answers, and it allows you time to use your intuition. Your gut instincts will rarely lead you astray, and believe me - a good private investigator has a healthy respect for gut instinct and intuition!

So here are 10 questions - five of which will appear in Part 1 and the other five will be included in Part 2 - that will provide the information you need to hire the right professional private investigator for your job.

10 Questions to ask before you hire a private investigator

  1. Are you licensed? If so, what's the number? In order to become a licensed private investigator, we have to (among other things) do 3-years and several thousand hours of investigative field work, learn the laws, ethics, and professional standards for our industry, pass a two-hour test covering all aspect of private investigation - from properly handling evidence to an in depth knowledge of state and federal laws and regulations - and we must pass a national criminal background check. Then the license must be kept current. Most of the time, a licensed private investigator will have his/her license number listed on the website, business cards, brochures and/or anywhere else they advertise their business name. If not, ask for it. Always verify that a private investigator's license is current on your state's website. In the state of California, you can click here to verify a private investigator's license number.
  2. How long have you been licensed and working as a licensed private investigator? This is a tricky one because we all had to start somewhere and it's not to say that new private investigators aren't good. It's just that experience - and a successful track record - mean something. If you have a complex case, need professional surveillance services, or are dealing with a potentially volatile situation, such as a custody battle or a domestic or elder abuse situation, you may want to hire a private investigator with a good deal of experience under his/her belt.
  3. Where is your office located? There are several reasons for this question; in case you didn't follow through with Question #1, it's important that you verify you are hiring a professional and not someone posing as a P.I. and living out of their car. They should have a bona fide business address that is associated with their name and/or company name. These days, this address should be easily verifiable online or in a local telephone directory. Also, it tells you if the private investigator can affordably help you. While investigators often travel to perform their investigative services, it might not be cost-effective to hire a Miami-based P.I. when you need a San Diego Private Investigator!
  4. What is your background? The thing is, many of us come from the same backgrounds, such as retired police officers and/or former FBI agency employees. That can be very impressive...unless the officer was fired, or the FBI agent was "asked to resign," due to his/her inability to do their job or unethical on-the-job behavoir. Just because someone has an impressive background on paper, doesn't mean they are qualified. A succesful track record, your own instincts, and a few good referrals might be more important. Or, you might find the private detective has a seemingly unrelated work history, or unique background, which makes him/her better at certain areas of private investigative services.
  5. Do you have a specialty? While licensed private investigators offer a wide range of private investigative services, some of us choose to specialize in certain areas. Good private investigators will be honest. And hey, we are certainly familiar with our colleagues and their abilities so it could be that you might get a professional referral to another P.I., in the hopes that s/he will return the favor down the road. The important thing is that you hire someone who will perform the best investigative services possible for your particular case.

These five questions provide the foundational information you will want to learn before you hire a private investigator. Stay tuned for 10 Questions Before You Hire a Licensed Private Investigator - Part 2, where we will cover some of the questions that get down to the "nitty gritty" of what you need to know before you make your final decision.

Mike Garroutte is the owner of Linked Investigations. He has been a licensed Newport Beach Private Investigator for more than 30 years. He commonly serves a Private Investigator in Los Angeles and Orange County. Contact Linked Investigations if you are in need of quality investigative services at a competitive price.

Published on: 
October 1, 2012
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